3.8 Development of entrepreneurship competence
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The German education system promotes young people's entrepreneurial skills through a variety of programmes and initiatives and with the support of the private sector. The development of entrepreneurial skills begins early on at school, in vocational training and at university. Policies address not only the young people themselves, but also teaching staff who are responsible for developing these skills and competencies. This is Germany's response to the Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan of the European Commission, which seeks to strengthen entrepreneurship education for young people.
Incorporation of entrepreneurship competence into curricula
In the context of education policy, the subjects of entrepreneurship and business education are generally embedded in appropriate school subjects such as economics, politics, social science and labour studies. Due to the legislative powers of the federal states in the field of education, the situation varies from state to state.
In a framework agreement on vocational schools (Rahmenmvereinbarung über die Berufsschule) of 12 March 2015, amended on 9 September 2021, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (Kultusministerkonferenz) formulated the goal that vocational schools should provide an overview of educational and career development prospects, including entrepreneurial independence. Business and entrepreneurship education are also taught in school projects or programmes and competitions which take place outside regular classes.
The German Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) funds the national Youth Start-Ups (Jugend gründet) competition. The competition is aimed at school pupils and apprentices. They develop a business plan and guide their simulated business to success.
The Federal Ministry for Economics and Climate Action (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz, BMWK) promotes a range of programmes to strengthen entrepreneurial skills. They include:
- Entrepreneurial Spirit in Schools (Unternehmergeist in die Schulen): This website offers support to school principals and teachers in their work in the area of economic education. The portal is also for school pupils. A separate section offers information on economics specially prepared for young people.
- The JUNIOR programmes (JUNIOR – Wirtschaft erleben) give pupils across Germany the opportunity to set up their own business at school. The programmes offer career guidance, prepare young people for vocational training, promote career opportunities and help participants gain business expertise and key skills. Together, pupils learn about and try out the basic principles of entrepreneurship, and as a result acquire the key social and professional skills they need for their professional life.
- EXIST is another support programme run by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK). One of the goals of EXIST is to improve the entrepreneurial environment at universities and research institutes. It also aims to increase the number and success of technology- and knowledge-based business start-ups. BMWK helps university graduates, scientists and students prepare their tech-and knowledge-based business start-ups.
Courses offered by German universities also include the subject of entrepreneurship. In 2022, there were 190 entrepreneurship professorships at public and private universities in Germany, especially in North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria according to an overview by the Förderkreis Gründungs-Forschung e.V.
Partnerships / networks
Business and entrepreneurship education also takes place through cooperations with partners outside of school, for example with enterprises, youth associations or public authorities. Networks such as SCHULEWIRTSCHAFT promote collaboration between schools and businesses across all school types and industries.
Outside of formal education, associations, initiatives and foundations teach entrepreneurial skills. Non-school-based education, including science and technology education and youth education (Jugendbildung), helps encourage young people to develop entrepreneurial and employment skills with their activities and programmes.
More information on the role of youth work in entrepreneurship education in Germany is available in the European Union publication Taking the future into their own hands: Youth work and entrepreneurial learning from 2017.
There is currently no nationwide system for recognising personal learning outcomes achieved in informal and non-formal settings. The portfolio system now widely used in general education schools documents both formal qualifications from school and vocational training and competencies and skills which have been gained in non-formal and informal learning environments and can be of relevance to entrepreneurial activities.
Funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung), the Valikom initiative has developed standards to determine vocational skills gained in the workplace and in non-formal settings by individuals with no formal vocational qualifications. The validation system was introduced in November 2018 in 32 chambers of arts and crafts, trade and industry, and agriculture across Germany under the ValiKom Transfer project.
Youthpass is the European recognition tool for non-formal and informal learning under the Erasmus+ Youth in Action programme and in the European Solidarity Corps (ESC). Young people and youth workers can use Youthpass to document and present the skills they develop during an activity funded in the Erasmus+ programme and the ESC.
More information on the recognition of non-formal and informal learning achievements is available in the Youth-Wiki chapter on Education and Training.
Numerous institutions offer continuing professional development (CPD) courses on entrepreneurship education for teachers at general and vocational schools, vocational instructors, providers in the non-formal sector and youth work experts. Examples of CPD providers offering entrepreneurship education are listed below:
- Teacher training institutes in the federal states offer CPD training in a range of areas including economics and business-related subjects.
- The training institutes of employer and industry associations in all German federal states (Länder) belonging to the consortium of training institutes in German industry (Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Bildungswerke der Deutschen Wirtschaft, ADBW) also offer CPD courses relating to entrepreneurship education.
- Members of the SCHULEWIRTSCHAFT network offer further training for teachers on subjects relating to economics.
There are numerous websites, manuals, etc. on the development and promotion of entrepreneurial skills. Here are a few examples:
- Eigeninitiative und Lernmotivation fördern mit Entrepreneurial Teaching. A practical teacher training manual published by the German Children and Youth Foundation (Deutsche Kinder- und Jugendstiftung),
- Learning module on entrepreneurship ("Unternehmerisch Denken und Handeln") for use in economics lessons in schools providing general education by the Institute for Economic Education at the University of Oldenburg (Institut für ökonomische Bildung IÖB, Universität Oldenburg) in cooperation with the Joachim Herz foundation (Joachim-Herz-Stiftung). Teachers receive support regarding use of the materials in the classroom through accompanying CPD events.